The race for dominance in the semiconductor industry is fierce. Moore’s Law, globalization and our insatiable demand for technology created a $433 billion industry. For SK hynix, the world’s third largest semiconductor manufacturer after Intel and Samsung, staying at the forefront of innovation requires the entire company pulling together as one.
The IT team saw an opportunity to help the Korean company enhance its competitiveness and prove its value to senior management. This would reposition them from being perceived as a cost center to crucial business enabler. However, the team would only reach this goal by demonstrably proving newfound agility in the manufacturing process. They also needed colleagues to vouch for their value in helping drive innovation and competitive advantage.
“We have a lean IT team that is often pulled in multiple directions with requests for support and guidance on how to improve operations. Our ambition to add value provided the catalyst for change, and we seized the chance to radically rethink our approach to ensure IT was no longer a limiting factor in our progress,” said Byungsun Kim.
To put IT’s challenges into context, a single manufacturing plant could have two million events a day that need to be addressed. These events could range from new code being published to alerts and incidents that crop up along the manufacturing line. The team works to support everything from monitoring to data analytic decisions and commonplace troubleshooting. As such, there was no way that a lean engineering team could even begin to manage this workload manually. Prior to the revamp, the engineers had to check at least 10 screens manually, which was becoming unwieldy, increasing the chance for human error and incidents being missed.
Automation lay at the heart of their revolution. The team deployed the VMware vRealize suite of solutions, enabling them to launch 50 automation workflows. They also leveraged VMware cloud technology to enhance the existing cloud management platform.
“Resource management was one of the biggest benefits of moving to a software-defined data center. We deployed a self-service portal where our teams can request resources, like virtual machines, for their projects. What used to take weeks to deploy now takes only a couple of days, meaning our developers can bring their products to market faster,” said Byungsun Kim.
For an organization the size of SK hynix, operations run 24/7. Automatically monitoring workloads, predicting future demand and quickly addressing urgent issues allowed the IT team to keep maintenance downtime to a minimum and eliminate unexpected system shutdowns. This accelerated manufacturing capabilities and proved to senior management the worth of investing in concerted digital transformation. And the IT team’s efforts are now being recognized by industry peers. In the recent IDC DX Awards for Korea, the company took home 3-of-the-10 honors: overall digital transformer of the year, talent accelerator and operating model master.
This newfound agility is starting to be reflected in the balance sheet with the company meeting rising demand for its advanced chips. And as the pandemic recovery continues, the shift to remote work will further drive demand for high-end premium devices, meaning back-end investment continues to be critical. The new technology foundation will also be essential in the coming years.
SK hynix recently launched a 10-year vision to leave a positive impact on the environment and the communities in which it operates. Goals include:
- Net-zero carbon emissions.
- 300% increase in water savings.
- Knowledge sharing and training across companies, academia and the public sector.
“We are aware of the leadership role we must play as one of the world’s foremost semiconductor manufacturers in addressing the planet’s most pressing challenges. We believe by committing to automation, we have given ourselves the best possible start to achieving both our business and societal goals,” said Byungsun Kim. “It was very rewarding for our team to be recognized by our leadership for our work. And we are excited about where we can take the technology to make our company even more agile and innovative.”